Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 | SportsCafe Team of the Tournament

Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 | SportsCafe Team of the Tournament

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The tournament, which served as a practice ground for IPL scouts ahead of the auction this month, saw plenty of runs scored, wickets taken and more so players emerged. The final, however, saw two teams Karnataka and Tamil Nadu clash in the derby, only for the former to retain the title.

The recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) saw holders Karnataka retain the title in a dramatic fashion as they beat Tamil Nadu by one run in the final. The tournament, also, acted as a litmus test ahead of 2020 IPL auctions for a few, while for the others, it acted as an audition for the national team. 

While it was Karnataka and Tamil Nadu who imposed their authority over the other teams and stamped their way into the final, it would be naive to negate the individual masterclass of players from the other teams. For Manish Pandey and Karnataka, it was a glorious season of runs, wickets and masterclass fielding which resulted in the trophy. 

We pick the best eleven from the concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, with as many as 6 batsmen with two all-rounders and three pacers. This combination has been picked on the basis of the conditions that were seen in the tournament. 

Best XI of the tournament:

Devdutt Padikkal - Karnataka (12 matches, 580 runs, average 64.44, SR 175.5, HS 122*) 

An automatic pick to the XI, and one of the most dangerous batsmen in the tournament, Devdutt Padikkal has turned all the attention towards him. The left-handed batsman, whose backlift has been compared to Yuvraj Singh, has been one of Karnataka’s mainstay batsman in the tournament. While the stats lie in front of you and truthfully, Devdutt left no stone unturned in the tournament, with his excellent strike rate of 175.5. 

The left-hander does not look the most intimidating batsmen when you see him upfront but some of his shots left the bowlers clueless and astonished. It is often said that you would never know when he gets to a huge score, silently yet with such aggression Padikkal turned into the best opener and find of the tournament. Hold your horses IPL franchises, he is already retained by RCB. 

Ruturaj Gaikwad- Maharashtra (11 matches, 419 runs, average 41.90, SR 146.5, HS 82*)

While Padikkal was an automatic starter, his fellow opener has been quietly stepping up his pace. Maharashtra’s Ruturaj has already been certified to have a ‘cricketing brain’ by his CSK teammate and idol MS Dhoni. The 22-year-old Punekar tried his best to power his side into the semi-finals, however, that is not the way cricket works barring exceptions though. 

In the 11 games that he played, he scored aplenty and at such strike-rates which are impressive. Further, his running between the wickets was commendable, combined with the fiery strokes. The game against Arunachal Pradesh caught the eyes of the commentators, as the right-hander scored an 81 in just 41 deliveries, smashing seven sixes in the innings. He’s preferred over KL Rahul for the opening position simply for the fact that his statistics are too good to ignore, allowing Rahul to play at No.3. 

KL Rahul- Karnataka (wk) (8 matches, 313 runs, average 52.16, SR 155.72, HS 84*) 

Despite just starting 8 games, Rahul scored 313 runs in the tournament at an average of 52.16. Well, for starters, Rahul’s capability as a swashbuckler is well-known and second Rahul’s omission from the playing XI is well-known too. Despite striking the ball sweetly, the right-hander has very often been skipped from the national team, largely due to Shikhar Dhawan’s partnership with Rohit Sharma

Very well, SMAT and IPL would be the two tournaments that Rahul would be aiming to figure out his role and place in the national team, given Kohli and Rohit are sure starters for the 2020 T20 World Cup. Incidentally, his 84 came in the game where Devdutt struggled, as did Karnataka’s dominant middle order including 4 sixes and 7 boundaries. 

Manish Pandey- Karnataka (c) (9 matches, 314 runs, average 78.50, SR 164.39, HS 129*) 

Well again, no introductions required as his CV loads of trophies. As a skipper, Pandey has had an excellent run in both Vijay Hazare and SMAT leading Karnataka to a domestic double. On the field, he has been an inspiration with both his willow and on the grass. Covering every blade of grass, Pandey has 9 catches in the tournament, while inflicting the most-crucial run-out in the final to dismiss Vijay Shankar. 

With the bat too, Pandey just had the best audition that he could give before India’s squad is to be picked for the World Cup smashing 314 runs in just nine games at an average of 78.5 (way to lead your team to victory). A big match player, Pandey scored right when it mattered as Karnataka were held back by R Ashwin in the final only for Pandey to win the game. 

Suryakumar Yadav- Mumbai (11 matches, 392 runs, average 56, SR 168.96, HS 94*) 

Nearly in the Indian team yet so far has been Suryakumar Yadav’s career thus far. Yadav has decimated, dominated and played with patience all in the same game right from his debut with the Mumbai Indians in 2012. His stock has been on the rise since his display on the domestic circuit, however, has always been the one to miss out from the cut for the national team. 

Despite Mumbai’s dismal showing in SMAT, Yadav has scored 392 runs at an average of 56. Further, his ability to play a floater role definitely should catch the selectors off-guard soon. 

Virat Singh- Jharkhand (10 matches, 343 runs, average 57, SR 142, HS 76*

The other Virat, or how people have known him thus far is no tadpole in comparison this season. In SMAT, the southpaw has scored 343 runs with a mix of caution and aggression much like his fellow leftie Devdutt. Stands tall, packs a punch and runs hard between the wickets is what Virat can be described as. Notably, his 76 came against a strong Karnataka side who were made to sweat late in their victory against Jharkhand. 

It could very well be a breakthrough season for Virat Singh, who has shown how calm, composed yet some stunning shots could show you the path to the limelight. 

Harshal Patel- Haryana (12 matches, 374 runs, average 31.16, SR 165.48, HS 82, 19 wickets) 

Harshal Patel’s story as an all-rounder has been incredible. Utilised and under-utilised in the franchise cricket, the right-handed all-rounder took it upon himself to prove his bearings. In the 12 games, not only did he open the innings, he batted at No.3 and further propelled Haryana to high scores in multiple games. 374 runs and 19 wickets is a no joke, but will the all-rounder be considered for an Indian spot? No, he will not in the next series or two, so what really is the hush-hush all about? 

Patel’s played some cameo and some smoking innings during SMAT, and moreover has bowled important spells for the state team. His contribution as an all-rounder is the best in the tournament, by a country mile. Right before the IPL, is he creating the right noise? 

Shreyas Gopal- Karnataka (12 matches, 19 wickets, an economy rate of 6.78, BF 5/19) 

Leggie? Check! Can bat? Check! Is a good fielder? Check! A title winner? Check! All boxes checked and yet lagging behind in the limelight is Shreyas Gopal. The leggie was the obvious pick in the XI, over his counterparts. Can the leggie finally feature in the Indian line-up please is our request to the Indian team? 

Gopal is carrying Anil Kumble’s legacy ahead in Karnataka and proving that leg-spin is never a dying art. With 5-19 as his best figures, Gopal certainly lived up to the expectations as did Karnataka. 

Washington Sundar- Tamil Nadu (10 matches, 271 runs, average 54.20, SR 128.43, HS 54*, 6 wickets) 

If you ever wanted a player like Washington Sundar, you might have to search deep in any domestic circuit. However, in India, we already have one. Washi is incredible, he can open bowling, batting just like another gully boy who has the bat. However, the difference being that Washi can do it incredibly well. He played for India during the course of the tournament and travelled the same night to play for TN in the morning, talk about commitment. 

Why would we pick a player like Washi could be the right question asked, as we answer he is everything that you need in a player. He can open the bat, he can curtail the scoring-rate and he can also pick wickets, a proper all-rounder he is. 

Lukman Meriwala- Baroda (7 matches, 16 wickets, an economy rate of 6.33, BF 5/21)

It is mandatory to have a left-arm pacer in your playing XI in T20s, ask Australia! Meriwala had a ‘meri’ time in SMAT. Meriwala’s performance against Karnataka was one of his best in the tournament, yet it was not his best. The way Meriwala performed in the 7 games is incredible, and to pick 16 wickets shows consistency and to do it with an economy rate of 6.33 it is outstanding. 

Indeed, the left-arm pacer could be the future for Indian cricket. However, naming somebody the future of any team just jinxes them and robs them of their opportunity, so excuse me. With a strike rate of 10.1, it is only time before Meriwala starts to ring the right bells on the domestic circuit. 

R Sai Kishore- Tamil Nadu (12 matches, 20 wickets, an economy rate of 4.63, BF 4/6)

The first and the last name on the list were picked prior to picking any players, that shows you how much of an impact these two players have had on the proceedings. Sai Kishore’s performance in the tournament has been nothing short of spectacular. Dinesh Karthik’s trust on the youngster was clearly visible, as he gave him the new ball. And, Sai’s trust with his instincts similarly visible as he aced and mastered the skill of opening the bowling. 

Picking up 20 wickets at an economy rate of 4.63 is peanuts, and to do so consistently is a genuine skill. A breakthrough tournament indeed, and possibly a crazy sum of money following the IPL auction? We must wait and see on that one. 

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